The last several weeks I’ve been traveling all over West Kenya visiting groups in the branch offices of OI-Wedco to do journal updates. I return back to Kisumu with a deeply somber heart. A few weeks ago in Kakemega I met two Kikuyu single mothers from a Kiva funded group. They told me about how they lost everything after the post-election violence. During the turmoil their shop and clothing stock was burned because of their tribal background. They fled to an IDP (internally displaced persons, essentially refugees in their own country) camp run by the UN and stayed for five months. They...Continue Reading >>
I’ve had a pretty frustrating day here in Beirut. To those who plan on traveling, a bit of advice…don’t loose your passport. Especially not in Lebanon. I felt like I was trapped in that scene from Battle of Algiers where Colonel Mathieu is unceremoniously perched atop his desk answering the questions of reporters either with an endless moral treatise or a flippant plume of smoke from his Gauloises and a shake of his head. Afan in the background blowing thick air around around the office, a woman in the corner pecking at a typewriter from the 20′s… Except in my...Continue Reading >>
Well, I’m back in the U.S., which means back to the old grad-student-grind. (There is, however, the new excitement of teaching French 1 for the first time here in Beautiful Berkeley, where I have hardly seen a cloud since my return.) I’ve had a few things to finish up for my Kiva fellowship in Senegal, though, since my last week in the field was spent… in the field. We ran around trying to pack as many interviews as we could into the last few days; but, as if to mock our efforts at productivity, fate struck me with a quick bout of travel-related...Continue Reading >>
In Hanoi the tourist stalls in the old quarter are crammed with all manner of trinkets for tourists to buy. T-shirts are of course popular and there are many that contain that ubiquitous saying ‘same same but different’. Usually I ignore the persistent hawkers ( while fighting back the urge to proudly declare that I am more than a mere tourist ) but events over the past couple of weeks have made me actually stop and think a little more about ‘same same but different’.
I am first generation...Continue Reading >>
On August 24th I left Dar es Salaam for a 3-week trip to central Tanzania to train BRAC branches on Kiva in three other regions. Here’s a glimpse into the first 11 days of my 21 days on the road:
Seven hours on the bus from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma has kicked off with a traveling saleswoman making her pitch for soaps, toothpastes, and aloe vera at full volume to the entire bus for at least 30 minutes. Perhaps I would mind her hard-sell less if I were able to understand more than 1 out of every 12 words (I do learn, however, that “...Continue Reading >>
I couldn’t really decide how to start this blog. I’m a bit new to the business. I always assumed blogs were just a bit pretentious unless you had something terribly important to say, but now that I have to write one of these things for my Kiva fellowship, I think I’m growing into the idea. Maybe it’s because now I have something important to say. Was that a touch of prentention? Alas, let’s just hope that someone reads these… Ahlan wa sahlan! I’m JJ. I’m a Virgo, I like fitted hats, and I recently decided that the best way to put off making...Continue Reading >>
I have eaten more in the past six days than in my previous five weeks in Bolivia. Cochabambinos pride themselves on living in the eating capital of Bolivia, and the third question people ask you after “What’s your name?” and “Where are you from?” is usually “How do you like the food?” The local specialty is pique, a big pile of beef, chicken, sausage, hot dogs, tripe, chicharrones, hard-boiled eggs and udder (udder!) stacked 8-12 inches high on a bed of french fries. Ronny and Paola, AgroCapital’s Credit Manager and...Continue Reading >>
After 7 movies, 4 made-for-TV dramas, 1 documentary, 2 Sudoku games, 1 confiscated Swiss army knife, 1 – $70 extra baggage weight charge, 5 airplane meals of chicken, chicken, and more sai mouan (chicken in Khmer), and 3 different planes, I am finally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I believe I am the last of the Kiva Fellow 5 Class reporting for duty, but don’t quote me on that, and I just can’t believe I am here after all those months of jealousy and admiration from reading the other fellow’s blogs and notes from the field.
I arrived yesterday morning around 9am...Continue Reading >>
As some of you might know there is the story about the Guatemalans being a bit scared of people taking their kids for illegal adoption; apparently there was once a Japanese tourist beaten to death when he (or she I don’t know) picked up a kid.
Myself I have had kids dropped in my lab to have them sitting there for a couple of hours during a bus ride where mama already careys two others. One in tied around her back in a cloth an easily mistaken for a small package. One holding her skirt and one carried into the...Continue Reading >>
Fresh off the plane, I arrived in Dar es Salaam eager to begin work with Tujijenge Tanzania as a Kiva Fellow. First task: find accommodation for the year. Without Craigslist Tanzania, the whole process promised to be daunting.
It was. Here are some of the reasons:
Go to a real estate agent, he charges you $20 for a tour of available properties. But after showing you a gaggle of multiple bedroom apartments after you ask for a single room you get the sense he’s just showing you anything and everything to get his...Continue Reading >>